Summary: Not quite a review, but not quite a game guide either. This GT4 article is for fans only. Inside you'll find playing tips, car talk, and track talk.
Iím assuming youíre a fan of the Gran Turismo series, or at least driving games. Iím assuming that youíve already ordered Gran Turismo 4 and read our review from the beginning of the month, and you are probably the type of fan who already knows that February 24, 2005ís episode of The Apprentice will have the teams working on making a promotion strategy for the game (and if you didnít, youíre probably getting a tape of the show).
I didnít start writing for FiringSquad as a game reviewer. Iíve never been a full-time writer for FS either, even though I started writing for the site in 1999 and ďretiredĒ from writing last year. Now, the only time I write is when some website needs some sort of specialized expertise I can bring to the article. One of those specialized areas of expertise is driving games with force feedback wheels. That said, Iím a driving enthusiast and not a hardcore driving game enthusiast.
Unlike GT3 where you could unlock cars from playing the arcade mode alone, all of the unlocking comes from progressing further in the game. As you beat more races in the GT World, more tracks are available to you in the arcade mode. So the first goal is to complete as many races as possible. As you win prize cars, they will also be available in arcade mode. However, some cars simply arenít found in arcade mode Ėthese cars need to be purchased in GT World. Only then can you take them to the track, paying pocket-change of credits to get on. So the second goal is to make as much money as possible.
You always will want to start off by doing the license tests. Not only are they requirements for getting into various races, but theyíre also a good way to improve your driving skills by breaking bad habits. Those of us who are able to get silver or better on these tests, will really have minimal trouble progressing through the game and may find it more interesting to skip ahead to part two of the article.
The Cadillac Cien
Now, if youíre not at a skill level where you can beat International A, an alternative approach is to win the Cadillac Cien early on. Thatís the prize car for the first stage in the Special Condition Hall. The Cien was Cadillacís V12 concept supercar and while it doesnít handle its power that well, itís exceptionally fast and will help you easily win the races from the beginner league and professional league.
The GT4 Hot Deals Forum
What does, errÖ your ďfriendĒ do when thereís some sort of hot deal thatís limited to one item per customer? He buys the item and then gets back in line a second time, right? Well, you can use that same trick in GT4. For some reason, the second track from the Special Condition Hall is where youíll have no trouble earning money. The Rally d' Capri is also a tarmac-only track thatís not too difficult either. The prize car, however, is a Toyota RSC Rally Raid Car which is worth more than even a GTR-class car such as the Corvette C5R. Once you win this car, go back to your garage, sell it and re-do the race again. Make sure you tell GT4 to clear your progress for the race so that itíll award you the car. Sell the car again. Rinse, repeat.
Now that you have an unlimited source of money from the Rally díCapri track, all you need to do is focus on unlocking new tracks. If thereís a track that requires a special type of vehicle, you can just buy it. You should be able to find enough races that you enjoy to progress enough through the game to unlock all tracks in Arcade mode. The B-spec mode is one additional tool.
Whether youíre playing Counter-Strike or driving a track in Gran Turismo 4, learning the map is an important part of the game. In Counter-Strike, youíve got to be aware of all the paths to the bombsite and all the common places for campers. In Gran Turismo 4, you need to be familiar enough with the track so that you always know whatís coming up ahead. Tsukuba has relatively few turns, none of which are blind, and they all look unique. Youíll be able to quickly pick up the track after a few laps.
Once you learn the track, youíll be able to focus on driving the car itself. You wonít be spending any effort trying to remember what is coming up next and instead can focus on finding the best race line and having the best throttle and steering control. The way that Tsukuba is designed, itís drivable whether youíre in a minivan or a F1 car. Once you think youíve mastered Tsukuba, you can move on to the wet version and start the learning process all over again.
So, if there is one track that will help you become a better driver, itís the Tsukuba circuit. Itís curvy enough to be fun, but simple enough so that you can learn the track quickly.
SIDEBAR: GT3 had two wet tracks. GT4 only has one.
This is unquestionably my favorite track of the game. The Nurburgring is probably the most famous track in the world when it comes to testing stock street-legal cars. European car enthusiasts can simply pay 18 euros to get a lap on the track. Spy shooters can simply camp on the outskirts of this track with their telephoto lens and take photographs of concept and pre-production cars with ease because it is here where many manufacturers test and tune their car
Take for example Cadillac. With a history of building cars that drove like boats, Cadillac has had a lot of trouble shedding its image, despite producing some excellent cars. For the new CTS-V, however, all Cadillac needs to say is that it does the Nurburgring in 8 minutes, 19 seconds, faster than the 2004-generation BMW M5 or M3 and itís got instant street cred.
Thatís because Nurburgring isnít designed liked a Nascar track. Itís a 20.8 km track with 73 major bends (176 turns). Itís twisty, curvy, and is a true test of a carís handling. Of course, as a driver, itís brilliant fun. Youíll really feel the performance and handling of each car you take on the track. If I could choose only one track in the game, this would be it.
The complexity of the track is also what makes it a bad choice early on. You may need 50 laps on the track before you even begin to feel comfortable with the track and itíll take another 500 laps before youíll master it. Save this one for last.
Trial Mountain was one of my favorite tracks from GT3, and it continues to be true in Gran Turismo 4. As a fictional racetrack produced by Polyphony Digital, the scenery is beautifu. The reason why I like Trial Mountain so much is that itís one of the ideal tracks to practice show drifting. The track is easy to learn. This is more important than ever because if you want to drift, youíll always need to plan ahead. In addition, there are plenty of wide sweeping turns, giving your more room for error. Itís Trial Mountain where youíll learn your to be a drift king.
While all you Initial D fans out there will be tempted to jump right in with an AE86, if youíve never drifted before, I suggest that you start off with the RUF CTR. The balance is actually quite good without any modifications, and itís pretty easy to initiate and maintain a drift. You should use the RUF until you have the paradoxical steering and careful throttle control down.
SIDEBAR: Itís a good thing we donít live in Germany. Weíd never get any work done. Weíd just call in sick every day to do a run on Nurburgring.
The Circuit de la Sarthe is home to the Le Mans 24 hours race. Historically, it was here that Jaguar invented disc brakes and where Mazda proved that the rotary engine could provide racing performance via the R787.
What makes this track great is the Ligne Droite des Hunaudiťres, or ďMulsanne Straight.Ē In GT3, if you wanted to get a track where you could get reach the highest speeds, you needed to turn to a simple oval test track. The Mulsanne Straight in this circuit is nearly 4 miles long! For safety reasons, the real-life Mulsanne Straight is no longer 4 miles. In 1990, two chicanes were added to slow things down. Fortunately, Gran Turismo 4 includes both the current version and the original version with a perfectly straight Mulsanne... :)
Itís fun to drive and a great test of your carís acceleration and braking.
When it comes to cars, we all have our favorites. There are a lot of popular cars right now, and I donít need to tell you about the Evolution VIII MR, Ford GT, Mercedes SLR McLaren, DB9, or Elise. There are some cars, however, that I think are worth mentioning that seem to be less frequently talked about. Some of you will say ďwell duh, thatís an obvious choiceĒ whereas hopefully there others will decide to drive a car you might not otherwise have considered.
2005 Ford Mustang GT
The Ford Mustang is one of the most recognized icons of American muscle cars. With the recent redesign, the Mustang is once again evoking the desire that made it famous. Of interest, this version of America's most recognized automobile icon was engineered by a Vietnamese-born immigrant, Hau Thai-Tang, who now heads Ford's SVT division. This a great story of the American dream. Yeah, actors and people with accents can become Governor, but to design America's last real shot at an affordable sports car? That will live on. Even with outdated technology such as a live rear axle, the Mustang GT performs quite admirably in Gran Turismo 4. On the track, it has no trouble keeping up with the 350Z's and 330i's. Track times are very competitive and handling isn't bad. The drawbacks of a solid rear axle, a rough ride, some skittishness when cornering on bumpy surfaces, isn't a major factor in the game. This is to your advantage. I can't wait to see what SVT toys Mr. Hau Thai-Tang has in store, would a SVT mustang that can run with a Ford GT be possible? Only in America.
SIDEBAR: The previous generation Mustang didnít handle very well.
2005 VW Golf GTI
Ask any teenager about all-wheel drive performance cars with a rally heritage, and heíll tell you about the Lancer Evolution or WRX. Ask anyone who was around in the 80ís and theyíll tell you stories about the Audi Quattro. This was the car that put all-wheel drive on the map. This was the car that put electronic engine management on the map. This was the car that Michele Mouton used to show the world that women could win at the World Rally Championship. This was the car that began the AWD revolution.
In GT4, itís the street version of Audi Quattro that you get. While the Quattro shows its racing heritage in the game, itís clear that Darwin was right. Evolution is better.
SIDEBAR: The Audi Quattro is sometimes called Ur-Quattro for ďOriginalĒ Quattro.
This is the rarest of American muscle cars. The Plymouth SuperBird was built on top of the Plymouth Road Runner platform. The real version actually had a Warner Bros. Road Runner character on the side of the wing, and the horn was the classic Road Runner ďbeep beep.Ē This SuperBird variant was released to the public in order to meet NASCARís qualifications of having one production car for every two dealerships. Today, people associate enormous rear wings with rice rockets, but the Plymouth had it first in 1970. Even more surprising, the car had a superb ~0.30 drag coefficient Ė the 2001 Acura NSX was 0.32! Only 135 Superbirds with a Hemi engine were sold in the United States. On the used market, they go anywhere between $125,000 to $300,000 depending on condition.
Most 70s-era American muscle cars drive like a big boat. This SuperBird drives like a small boat. Try it out in the game -- youíll be lucky to even see one in real life.
BMW M3 CSL
These days the M3 is kind of becoming a common street car -- at least in California. I'm not just talking about 3 series coupes with rims and aero kits, but real M3's. They are more common than 911s, Corvettes, G35s, and that's a small part of the problem. It is a great performance car, but it blends in a little too well. We Americans are still out of luck, but Europe has the new M3 CSL. Basically, the CSL package takes out all the unnecessary stuff, like sound insulation. It also includes more composite, carbon fiber and thermoplastic parts, and extra thin glass, saving 243 lbs. In addition you get more power, 360 hp to be exact. This is 120hp per liter, which isn't bad for a normally aspirated engine. The suspension gets a retuning and the front track is a little wider. BMW's original press release claims a Nurburgring run of less than 8 minutes (30 seconds faster than the regular M3), Alan's time was 8:09.979 after three tries. [Alanís note: If I had the MOMO ForceÖ] This is Porsche 996 turbo territory. Although the weight savings, power boost, and suspension tweaks seem modest, the improvement on the track shows that the modifications have been well designed. This makes the M3 CSL an even better stealth supercar than the regular M3. Sometimes being discrete does have its advantages. GT4 lets you drive cars that you might be able to afford, but couldn't even buy if you wanted to.
So there you have it. Our four favorite tracks, and five cars every Gran Turismo 4 owner should take for a spin. Got your own favorite tracks, or ďhidden gemsĒ that every GT4 owner should test drive? Let us know!
SIDEBAR: In junior high school, our class mascot was Marvin the Martian. I voted for the Road Runner. Hey, it was junior high.
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